A shiver of fear has swept across California as a new threat has emerged: avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu. This highly contagious viral disease, primarily affecting birds, has triggered an outbreak of unprecedented scale, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. Poultry farms are under lockdown, wild birds are falling from the sky, and anxieties are skyrocketing. Is this danger only for birds, or should humans and their pets worry too? What exactly is this avian flu, and what are the potential risks and treatments?
What is Avian flu outbreak in California?
Bird flu, also referred to as avian influenza, is a respiratory condition that is usually brought on by infection with a specific type of influenza (flu) virus. These influenza viruses are frequently seen in domestic poultry, including guinea hens, ducks, geese, and chickens. Although there is little chance of human infection, incidences of avian flu viruses have been reported, especially in people who often interact with poultry or wild birds.
How Avian Influenza spreads to humans
Human infections with the avian flu virus have caused illnesses ranging in severity from mild cases with no symptoms to fatal cases of severe disease. As per the CDC, “Asian lineage H7N9 and highly pathogenic avian influenza Asian lineage H5N1 viruses have been responsible for most human illness from bird flu viruses worldwide to date.”
Infected birds typically release the bird flu virus through their saliva, mucus, and feces. Human exposure can occur when the virus is present in the air (in droplets or potentially dust), and a person inhales it. Additionally, there is a risk of infection if a person touches a surface contaminated with the virus and then touches their mouth, eyes, or nose.
Symptoms of Avian Flu in humans
- No symptoms or mild illness:
- Eye redness (conjunctivitis)
- Mild flu-like upper respiratory symptoms
- Mild to severe symptoms:
- Fever (temperature of 100ºF [37.8ºC] or greater) or feeling feverish
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Less common symptoms:
Avian flu in pets
Certain bird flu viruses have the ability to infect and transmit to other animals. There have been instances where these viruses have been known to occasionally affect mammals that consume (presumably infected) birds or poultry.
Avian Flu prevention and treatments
As a precaution, isolate yourself at home from other family members if you suspect infection or develop symptoms within 10 days of your last interaction with infected birds. Refrain from going to work or school until a flu test confirms the absence of the avian flu virus, and you have fully recovered. It is crucial to act responsibly and promptly report your symptoms and any recent exposure to infected or unwell birds to a healthcare provider, particularly if the illness involves respiratory symptoms. You will receive guidance on whether to stay at home or be hospitalized in isolation from other patients. Depending on the situation, you may be prescribed antiviral medication.